Hey, tutness and maatkara, dial it down a notch, you two! I'm getting all sweaty here reading this stuff.
However Claude II's topic is approached, it's relevant and worth discussing...in a civil manner. With relics of great value like the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum and the bust of Nefertiti in Berlin, Egypt does in fact have some legal stance because the objects were simply taken. The problem is, it was so long ago and in a time when the Egyptian government--such as it was--was in fact far more interested in the money of wealthy Westerners than it was in its own antiquities. It's a muddled issue at best and one that is not likely ever to be resolved for numerous precious artifacts scattered across the world. Neither the Rosetta Stone nor the Nefertiti bust will likely ever
be returned to Egypt. They have been in the keeping of their respective institutions so long that they have become a part of those countries' heritage.
It cannot be argued that Egypt has been exploited for hundreds of years by the greed and ambitions of Westerners. For all of you interested in this topic, I have to recommend Brian Fagan's book The Rape fo the Nile (Westview Press, 2004).
You'll learn that Egypt has had antiquities laws in place for a very long time, but no one paid them much attention; the French were in charge of Egypt's antiquities organization even when Britain controlled the country, and were known to sell valuable artifacts under the table to the highest bidders.
Best of all is Fagan's biographies of Egyptology's early giants, like Belzoni and Petrie. I've seen good ol' Wallace Budge discussed much here at KingTutOne, many voices raised in his favor and many against. His writings are much outdated by this point and some of his hieroglyphic work rather sloppy, but he was considered great in his time. What I hadn't known until reading Fagan's book is that Budge was also one of the worst tomb robbers of them all!
Anyway, none of us ever needs to worry that Egypt will one day somehow get all of its antiquities back from the museums of the world. It would be a monumental overstatement even to suggest that the Egyptian government would want to do so. They could not and would not. Egypt is a very poor country, for one thing, and to strip away its advertising from all over the world would devestate that country beyond description--and the museums with ancient Egypt exhibits are advertising, never doubt that. Museum exhibits are how practically all of our greatest Egyptologists got inspired in the first place, and countless people visit Egypt to see the real thing for themselves after having sampled numerous exhibits. Egypt relies on its tourism, plain and simple.
So if the Egyptian government ever closes a tomb or a site, it's to preserve and conserve that site...not to shut it off forever from public access. I'm a docent at the Field Museum in Chicago, and we have a wonderful ancient Egypt exhibit. Ours is representative of most others in this argument. Hawass himself, as well as others from the SCA, has toured our exhibit and desires nothing to be returned, even though we have many valuable objects in our collection.
Don't worry about it. Check out a book at the library about ancient Egypt, or buy one at Amazon, or visit a museum exhibit this weekend...that's what the Egyptian government wants you to do. The objects it wants returned are a scant minority of the total.